My best friend came to visit me one weekend. We hadn’t seen each other for three months, since we’d said goodbye upon moving out of our apartment in preparation of our separate study abroad adventures.
She had just turned 21, so we decided to celebrate by going on a pub crawl. We set out to have a fun girls’ night out. And it started out that way. There were tons of people our age, we were making new friends for the night and, most important, enjoying being together again.
A guy kept coming back over to us. It turned out he went to my university. He wasn’t really my type, but my friend was into him. At least until it became apparent he was using her to get to me.
We had a few too many £2.50 jagerbombs in one of the bars. Somewhere between the third and fourth bar, it all caught up to me and I blacked out. Next thing I knew, we were leaving a bar, barely able to distinguish whose limbs were whose, dragging my very drunk best friend along with us. I liked him because he kept telling me I was the most beautiful girl he had ever met. We couldn’t stay off of each other while we waiting for the bus. Nor while we were on the bus. Nor while we were in the cab he hailed because we got on the wrong bus. Nor when my best friend threw up in the cab. Nor when we dropped my best friend off in my flat and walked to his flat, which was somewhere near mine but I was so drunk I still have no idea where we actually were.
I’d never drunkenly hooked up with someone in my life, let alone someone I’d just met. It was all kind of a blur. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but pretended I did anyway. I remember being relieved when he couldn’t find a condom because, drunk as I was, I wasn’t ready to go that far. We fell asleep in his bed and only woke up because his roommate came in at 4 a.m. He walked me home right after.
He left and I got on Facebook to tell some friends about how bad I felt for abandoning my best friend like that.
They were concerned about other things. Most importantly, they wanted to make sure everything that had happened was completely consensual. I told them it was. I told one of them it was almost empowering to explore this more sexual side of myself.
He texted me a few days later, but I never texted him back. I spent weeks justifying to myself why it was okay that I didn’t text him back. He’d either want to keep hooking up, and I couldn’t do that because that night was an act of drunken lust because he made me feel beautiful, something I desperately needed because my self esteem had tanked recently. Or worse, he’d want a relationship, and I definitely couldn’t do that because I was in love with my other best friend, and I knew I could never feel the same way about him so it would be unfair to try.
I was angry with myself for letting something so dumb happen because I was feeling so low. I was angry with myself for needing a man to validate my self-worth. I was angry with myself for drinking as much as I did and not being able to remember large chunks of the night.
I started to wonder about that night. About how I actually felt in the moment. Did he kiss me first, or did I kiss him? Did I want to go, or did he push me to leave? It started to terrify me that I couldn’t remember as the news and my Twitter feed were flooded with the Steubenville rape trial. As other similar cases started cropping up, I couldn’t help but wonder if I actually really did want everything that happened that night, or if I was too drunk to really be able to consent.
remember him pulling off my underwear. I remember feeling weird when he went down on me, and not necessarily in a good way. I remember telling myself it was because no one ever had before, so I didn’t know what it was supposed to feel like. I remember it not feeling very good, especially when he decided to stick some fingers in, but I figured it was because he didn’t really know what he was doing and let him keep going, pretending I was enjoying it.
I remember pulling his head up and going back to kissing. I liked that part.
I remember feeling a little uncomfortable when he pulled away and asked for “reciprocation.” I hated that. I remember being hesitant, but doing it anyway, having no idea what the fuck I was doing, but doing it anyway because he asked for “reciprocation.” I remember eventually giving up and faking that I was too tired and he didn’t push for more but I can’t remember if he was upset.
Sometimes I’m not so sure I actually wanted any of it that night. I’m not sure whether I really wanted to go home with him, or whether he just dragged me along and I was too drunk to realize any concerns were actually concerns, too passive to realize it was okay to stop him if I was feeling uncomfortable, too inexperienced to know that anything that felt weird might have felt weird because I was uncomfortable with it, not because I wasn’t used to it.
And I wonder if the only reason I’m questioning any of it is because sexual assault has become so prevalent in the news. And if, for some reason, I resent that night on a moral level so I feel a need to justify it to myself by saying that I didn’t actually want any of it, I was just pressured into thinking I did. But that makes me feel even worse, for painting the image of myself as a victim of sexual assault and him as my attacker, because I want to believe I would put a stop to it if I were ever that uncomfortable, and because he didn’t attack me.
Sometimes I wonder if I actually wanted it that night, but the fact of the matter is I was just too drunk to tell. I can’t remember if I ever wanted to say no. If I ever did want him to stop, I was really good at acting like I didn’t.
I just can’t remember.
And I hate it.